Foster urges young entrepreneurs to make their mark

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster urged more young people to focus on developing their business skills and become part of Northern Ireland’s economic future.

The minister was addressing students at W5 in Belfast at the final of The Make Your Mark Challenge, a national competition for students aged 14-19, funded locally by Invest Northern Ireland and sponsored by the Department of Education. As part of the initiative, NYSE Euronext has partnered with Invest NI to offer a two day trip to New York which includes a visit to the New York stock Exchange for some of the winners.

Arlene Foster said: “Young people are the business leaders of the future. As we focus in the short term on helping businesses through the downturn, we must also ensure that longer term, we have developed the skills and talent to support future economic growth.”

Working in teams, more than 1,400 local students representing 42 post primary schools and colleges were given 24 hours to develop a profitable, original business idea inspired by something local which would minimise any impact on the environment. The competition was held during Global Entrepreneurship Week (16-20 November).

Today, 16 shortlisted teams presented their business ideas to a panel of industry experts at W5 in Belfast. The age 14-16 category winner was Christian Brothers School, Omagh and the winner of the age 16-19 category was Assumption Grammar School, Ballynahinch.

In addition to other prizes, the age 16-19 category winners will fly to New York in 2010 on a business trip where NYSE Euronext will coordinate visits to the Museum of Finance, the Federal Reserve, and the New York Stock Exchange. They will tour the market and meet with NYSE Euronext CEO, Duncan L. Niederauer.

The Minister added: “The Make Your Mark Challenge is one of a number of initiatives supported by Invest NI which aim to inspire young people and encourage them to develop vital business skills such as communication, negotiation, and creative thinking.

“The high level of interest in this competition indicates the importance future generations are placing on both the economy and the environment. All students who participated should be commended on their creativity and highly innovative business concepts.”

Tony McManus, Head of Trading Solutions for NYSE Euronext's commercial technology business, NYSE Technologies, said: “It is clear from today’s presentations that young people in Northern Ireland have much to offer the business world of the future. A key factor in NYSE Euronext’s growth in Northern Ireland has been the availability of highly talented, enthusiastic people and Make Your Mark has served to highlight the potential of, and provide a platform for, future generations.”